With four siblings of her own, Ronni Hawk is no stranger to being part of a large family. Now, taking on the role of Rachel in Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle, Hawk has an even bigger family.
Playing the eldest of seven kids, Hawk has had to find her inner diva to get her character just right. While her character is fairly different from her real self, one trait remains the same: a love of her family.
Making her television debut on Disney Channel’s newest series, the 16-year-old actress has big goals for her future. Talk Nerdy With Us got Hawk on the phone to discuss how she’s adjusted to her role, her interests outside of acting and how her family has supported her on her journey.
What went through your mind when you got the call that you landed the role of Rachel?
Honestly, when I tested for the role, it was just me and another girl. But, they wanted Rachel to be this supermodel-looking type of chick, and I’ve always thought of supermodels as tall. And the girl who was auditioning against me was like the size of Jenna [Ortega], and that gave me a sense of…goodness? Like maybe I’ll get it. When I got the call, I was honestly amazed. It was incredible.
What was the first thought that entered your head?
The first thought was “I did it. I finally booked a job.” (laughs). This is my first job, I was so excited and proud of myself. I’ve worked so hard and now I finally get to work. I was really lucky.
You’ve described yourself as more of a tomboy, and Rachel is very much a diva. What kind of challenges or obstacles do you face in portraying a character that’s so different from your real self?
Well, I used to be super girly and pink everything, and I was really like Rachel when I was younger. But then as I started maturing, I started changing into this tomboy that wears dark colors and things like that. So I was able to recall what it was like to be like that.
So, you’ve got two brothers and two sisters, so you’re kind of used to being in a big family.
Yeah, I am! Well, the thing is, I didn’t really grow up with my eldest brother and sister because they are my dad’s first kids and they are already grown and have kids and are married. So I didn’t really grow up in the house with them, but they were always around because we’re such a close family. We hang out all the time.
Has having that large family dynamic helped you portray Rachel, since she’s the eldest of seven kids?
Absolutely! I feel like the more siblings you have, the more you want to stand out and get the attention, so I definitely learned how to play that.
Has your real family and your Stuck in the Middle family bonded, like one mega-family?
Yes! When my family comes out to L.A. to visit, they’re so welcome on the set and everyone is just taking care of everyone! It’s such a positive environment, it has become like one humongous family.
What do you hope that fans learn from your character and Stuck in the Middle?
I hope fans will learn that you can stay true to yourself and still be stubborn, but you always should respect your family and love them at the end of the day, and show them that you have a soft spot and care for them.
You guys wrapped season one in April, what can you tease about the rest of the episodes this season?
Things definitely get crazier within the family, and you’ll definitely bond more to all the characters. You get to know them more.
That’s exciting! I know it’s still early to speculate, but what would you hope for in a season two?
In season two, I would hope to have more with Cuff, Rachel’s boyfriend. He’s a lot of fun to work with!
Do you have a dream guest star for Stuck in the Middle?
Probably Selena Gomez, because Wizards of Waverly Place and our show are very alike. They’re both single cam and both Latino families. I think that would be a lot of fun.
Yeah, as you mentioned, they’re both Latino families. It seems like you don’t see that too much on TV. Why do you think it’s important to have the Diaz family shown on Disney Channel?
I think it’s important because it reflects the real world. They brought in this Latina show and throughout the episodes we talk about the culture of being Latino. I think it’s good for the world to get to see that.
Have you had any Latino fans reach out and connect to it at all?
Absolutely! It’s amazing! People on Twitter will be like “Yay! They’re bringing diversity to Disney Channel, the Latino Diaz family!” And it’s just really cool getting to see that everyone’s really enjoying it.
Good! Do you have a favorite memory from set so far?
I believe that my favorite memory is just hanging out in school with everyone. It’s just so much fun because we listen to music and we all bond and we’ve all become such amazing friends. But as for filming, my favorite experience would be filming episode nine.
We still haven’t seen that yet!
(laughs) Yeah, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. It’s a lot of fun.
You mentioned earlier that this is your first big job, it’s your first television role. You’ve been in some commercials and a few shorts in the past. How have you had to adjust with booking a series, and a lead role on it?
Honestly, commercials are fun and easy to shoot, and then shorts are a couple of days of shooting and then you get done. But booking a show…the first week was super fun but I was so drained of energy. I’ve never done that before. Over the weeks, you start getting used to it and getting in the rhythm of things.
So now with a full season under your belt do you feel more ready for a potential season two?
Definitely. Because now I know what it’s like, I know the environment of the set, I know the people on set, now I’m definitely prepared. (laughs).
It’s a lengthy process to go through!
Yeah! And also to keep my social life, because I am a teenager and I want to stay grounded, and handle work and a social life.
How do you balance it all?
Pure dedication to both. (laughs). On early days that I get off, I will go home, clean myself up, prepare my lines for the next day and then I’ll call my boyfriend or my friends and be like “Hey let’s go out to dinner, let’s go see a movie.” I can’t stay out late, and I’ll just come home, get ready for bed and go to bed and wake up and go to work. But, you have to find time to also get out and see the people that you care about because it’s important to still have a social life. I’m still growing up.
We talked before about your dream guest star for Stuck in yhe Middle, but if you yourself could guest star on a show what would it be?
Any show in general, I would say The Originals. It’s a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries and I’m absolutely in love with it, and the cast is so talented. As for a Disney show, I would love to get to guest star on Best Friends Whenever. Definitely.
That’s a good one. So you’re an environmentalist, and partnering with The Thirst Project, what inspired you to get involved with this movement?
I was looking into different charities and then my publicist sent me The Thirst Project. I was reading all about it and I love that they want to provide clean water to all these people. The fact that they have to walk so far to even get clean water…I can’t imagine that. I just have to walk to the kitchen to get water. The fact that they have to work so hard for a simple necessity is so sad to me. I really want to be able to help them and make life easier for them.
And you’ve been an environmentalist since you were young.
Yes, yes I have been. I’ve always been doing charity work, cleaning beaches, going to rallies and things like that.
Was that just an interest you had, or were you influenced by your parents?
I was definitely influenced by my parents. My dad has – we’ve always been wrapped up in the church – and he’s always done mission trips for the church to Colombia and other places. He is a dentist and he cleans their teeth and he provides them with medicine they need and things like that. My parents have been a major influence.
I’ve also seen that you want to go to college to study archaeology, cultural management, and gypsies.
Yes! That is exactly what I want to go to college for. I want to go to UCLA or Brown, but I do want to try to stay in L.A. (laughs). I had a class in sixth grade and my teacher was talking about archaeology, and we did a lesson on it, and I was so wrapped up in it. I loved everything about it. Since then, I’ve always wanted to study it.
Maybe you can combine acting and an archaeology degree and you can be the next Indiana Jones?
(laughs). I would LOVE to get to do that. I don’t know how I feel about a female Indiana Jones, because I’ve always been so big on the original. I love love love Harrison Ford and the way that he made those movies. But I definitely do want to be the lead in some action movies. I would definitely love that.
But you also want to pursue dramatic roles as well?
Yes, absolutely. That is, honestly, one of my favorite things to do. I love to do drama. Now that I’ve had the chance to do comedy, I feel like I’ve got that under my belt. I mean, I don’t want to stop, I love it. It’s so much fun to get to do comedy. But the fact that I haven’t got to work in drama, now it’s something unknown and I really want to do it! I just love getting to pull this dramatic role out of me, and being able to do something completely different from what I’ve been doing.
You want to do drama, action, archaeology, you dance, you’re an environmentalist, you really have a diverse wheelhouse of skills and interests!
Yeah, I’d always been taught that when I was little. My dad has always said to always be open to anything and know yourself. And being so open to all of these things and having an interest in many things, I feel like it’s really helped me mature into who I am.
It’s been kind of a whirlwind of a year for you so far, what else is coming up for you in 2016?
Hopefully a season two. (laughs). But, just keep an eye on everything I’m doing for charity. I don’t have any upcoming projects, but I would love to get my fans to get in with my charity. That would be really cool!
Stuck in the Middle‘s newest episode, and Ronni’s favorite, airs Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. EST.